Volume 46, Issue 4 - May 2011


YES … Yes I Did!!!
by Lyle R. Hill

I answered it before it could finish its third ring. Before I could complete my usual salutation the gruff, gravely voice of the late morning caller interrupted me.

“Hill, is this you or not?”

I like talking to people—at least most people. My life has been blessed with a number of wonderful friendships in both personal and professional ways and few people enjoy a meaningful conversation with a friend more than I do. Unfortunately, not all conversations are with friends.

“Well Hill, are you there or not?” the caller continued before I could utter my first word of response. At this point, I wasn’t sure if I should answer or not. After all, if he really wasn’t sure if I was there, maybe I could get away with simply not being there. But the real problem with not answering was that I knew this particular caller would keep calling ... day and night … until I did answer. You see, I had already recognized the voice and this was no ordinary caller. Feared by many and disliked by most, the caller was none other than Johnny “The Mooch” Rago.

“Yes, I’m here,” I finally answered. “What do you want?”

“Well I just hung up from talking to our old pal Jungle Jim Bruney and he told me some crazy story about you retiring. I told him I had to hear this for myself. Told him I wouldn’t believe it unless I heard it directly from you. Not that you’re not old enough of course, but I always figured you for a guy who would be found slumped over his desk by the cleaning crew on some Friday night.”

A lifetime ago, Jungle Jim and The Mooch were part of one of the most feared street crews that ever operated on Chicago’s west side. Jungle Jim, an expert with explosives, was the brains of the crew and The Mooch provided the muscle. Our paths crossed when we were teenagers … a story much too long and involved to be told here … and for some unexplainable reason, we have continued to stay in touch for all these years. In a strange way, we are each a little fascinated with the other…

“So did you retire, Hill?” he continued.

“Yes … yes I did. You know Mooch, I worked full time for 46 years and more than 40 of them were for the same outfit. So I think it was time to take a rest then maybe move on to something new.”

“You know, Hill, you inspire me. I think I’m going to retire too.”

“Mooch, you don’t have a job to retire from.”

“So what? I like the sound of it. I think I’m going to start telling people I’m retired too.”

“Actually Mooch, now that I think about it, there probably are a few people who would love to hear that you have retired. They’d probably sleep better.”

“Listen Hill. Now that you’re retired maybe we can start spending time together. You know, like retired guys do. Meet at some restaurant on certain days of the week and talk about old times and stuff. What do you say?”

“I’ll think about it, but for now I’m going to get caught up some things I’ve put off for far too long and then, in a month or two, I’ll make a decision on what I may or may not want to do. I don’t think I can completely shut down but, at the same time, there are some places I want to see and some people I want to spend some time with so I have plenty to do.”

“Had any interesting offers yet Hill?”

“A couple, but I’m not going to rush into anything.”

“Like what, Hill?”

“Well, Bob Heider of Sealant Engineering wants to start a consulting company with me.”

“Isn’t that the guy with the ‘Life is Like a Coconut’ theory?”

“Yeah, that’s him.”

“What kind of a consulting business would you guys operate?”

“We haven’t got that far yet.”

“Anything else look promising?”

“Apparently after it was mentioned in USGNN.com™ that I was looking forward to spending some of my retirement time cutting the lawn because I enjoy that so much, I got offers from Tom Minnon of Tubelite, Beth Whitton of Precision Glass, John Linder of Calibre Door and about 15 other people offering their lawns for cutting if I ended up with free time on my hands after cutting my own.”

“Did you get any other unusual calls, Hill?”

“Well, I don’t know if I’d say they were unusual although certainly some were unexpected.”

“What do you mean?”

“For instance, I received a lot of nice calls and e-mails … probably 50 or more … from people who I regularly deal with but it was particularly nice to get contacted by people I hadn’t heard from in many years. For instance, Don Ude from Arrowall sent me a very nice e-mail and I think it’s been at least 20 years since Don and I had last been in contact. Dan Pilcher with Advance Glass invited me to lunch and I think it’s been 15 years or more since I’ve talked with him. Dan Naughton of Lake Shore Glass was another long-time contact who checked in with me. So those kinds of contacts were particularly nice because sometimes you think people forget you as the years go by.”

“You gonna keep writing those wacky articles for USGlass?”

“They want me to and I said yes. You know, I think my first article appeared in 1993 so I’d kinda like to make 20 years with them if they’ll let me. But to be honest with you, I’m surprised that they’ve put up with me for as long as they have.”

“You’re not the only one, Hill. So listen, you’ll call me when you want to start meeting for breakfast with me and Jungle Jim. You know the place, it’s the restaurant on Lake Street with no windows.”

“Sure, if and when that day comes, I’ll give you a call, and in the meantime, let me know if you hear of any lawns that need cutting.”

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